The New Era of Quarterbacks is Upon Us

08/07/2009 § Leave a comment

The NFL is a quarterback-centric league, and rightly so.  Playing QB in the only significant professional football league in the world is possibly the most difficult job in sports.  In keeping with that focus, we tend to look at the league’s eras in terms of the dominant QBs—the guys who are winning championships.  Most fans would agree that we are currently in the “Tom Brady/Peyton Manning” era.  I believe we are a little bit past that, into the transitional period between that era (where Brady, Manning, and Kurt Warner lead the group of QBs who entered league from 1995 to 2001) and a new era defined (so far) by Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.

Over half of the teams in the NFL have a firm New Era starter at QB.  Several others have competition involving a New Era QB, and a couple may even start QBs from the next era (the 2009 draft class kicks off that era, and Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford have an excellent shot at starting this year).

Does this mean time is up for Brady and Peyton?  Not entirely; John Elway won a couple of Super Bowls after Troy Aikman and Brett Favre had taken control of the torch.  But history has shown that once a new era of QBs wins a Super Bowl, the old era gets two or three more titles, then disappears.

In 2006 (SB XL), Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers chalked up the first win for the New Era QBs.  The following year, the Colts’ Peyton Manning earned his first ring.  After that, Peyton’s New Era brother Eli beat Super Bowl mainstay Tom Brady in the New Era’s second win.  Roethlisberger followed that up with another win against old-schooler Kurt Warner.  The message was clear:  The new kids were ready to take over.

With three of the last four NFL championships, the New Era is likely to dominate the Super Bowl for the next several years.  While Brady and Peyton Manning may manage to grab a couple of rings between them, their days are most likely numbered.

So, who will join Roethlisberger and Eli Manning at the head of the new class?  Past QB eras have sent on average 7 or 8 QBs to the Super Bowl.  So far, 3 New Era QBs (Rex Grossman’s Bears lost to Peyton Manning) have made it to the big game, meaning 4 or 5 more should find themselves playing for it all before the next group takes over.  Names like Aaron Rodgers, Trent Edwards, and Matt Ryan jump off the list as candidates who are likely to get a good shot at proving themselves instead of being subjected to competition every offseason, something that should give them a leg up on their contemporaries.  If the Bengals can get their trouble-makers under control, Carson Palmer has the talent to be great.  If they can’t, he may want to consider a change of scenery.  I wouldn’t count out the Cowboys’ Tony Romo either, but he may be losing the faith of his fanbase.

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